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Dr Nancy Laughton - Mr Percy Whitaker

Dr Nancy Laughton

THE CLAVERDON affix is instantly recognisable anywhere in the world where there are Flatcoated Retriever breeders and enthusiasts, many of whom will have Dr Nancy Laughton’s Claverdon bloodlines in their pedigrees. I was greatly saddened to have a telephone call from Nancy’s great friend, Gwen Knight to say that Nancy had died on Christmas Day, almost exactly a month before her 96th birthday which would have been on January 26th. The news was not unexpected but whenever it comes, there is still a sense of shock and grief.

Nancy was the only girl in a family of five children, having four brothers could quite well have influenced and encouraged her undoubted competitive spirit, whilst early rabbiting excursions with her father may well have laid the seeds of an interest in working dogs. Following school at King Edward’s High School in Birmingham Nancy went to Medical School, also in Birmingham where she qualified, then moving to London to specialise in Bacteriology before returning to he home ‘fields’ and in due course becoming a lecturer at Birmingham University.

For a woman to achieve this at that time is quite remarkable.

In the early 1940s Nancy decided to have a gundog of her own and turned her attention to Flatcoated Retrievers, it is worth remembering that at this time the breed was at an abysmally low ebb, two world wars had decimated the breed, but near to hand in North Warwickshire were Will and Winnie Phizaklea who farmed but also had the well established ‘Atherbram’ Flatcoated Retrievers. Nancy visited them and returned with the black bitch, Claverdon Jet and a liver which went to a friend. Nancy felt Jet was the best duel purpose bitch of that time and in more experienced hands could well have become a FT Champion. In fact the Atherbram Kennel was largely responsible for the revival of the breed when experienced gundog men, Read Flowers, Stanley O’Neill and Colin Wells returned from service overseas and needed to start up again.

The affix or prefix as it was then called, of Claverdon was chosen solely because it was the telephone exchange. The breeding policy was based where possible on outcrosses in view of the very limited bloodlines available, the aim was always with inherent working ability in mind, plus correct type, the true dual purpose dog in fact. Nancy became a keen Field Trialler, in 1954 Claverdon Powder Box won the Society Open Stake and in 1961 C Turtledove won both the Non Winners and the Open Stake, this was just a beginning of a life time interest, there were many successes as well as inevitable disappointments. Claverdon dogs also had great success in the show ring as is seen by the many full Champions, they were also in great demand by overseas breeders who were anxious to maintain the breed’s dual purpose ability having seen Labradors and Goldens virtually evolve into two separate types.

Nancy did not restrict her energy and enthusiasm just to her own dogs, she gave willingly of time and knowledge to the Flatcoated Retriever Society of which over the years she held most offices, treasurer, secretary, chairman, president and to the time of her death, Patron of the Society. She also served on the Field trial sub committee and was Field trial ‘A’ judge, and of course, a Championship Show judge. Her main leisure activities were training the dogs with the aid of Gwen Knight and picking up which she did on two estates for some forty years, where she also had a ‘gun’. A perfectionist who expected others to have dedication and enthusiasm but who was equally demanding of herself.

Nancy was the last of an era with some outstanding breeders, those of us who are left have an enormous challenge to live up to or equal.

Joan Mason

Mr Percy Whitaker

THE DEATH on Sunday December 27th. of Percy Whitaker, at the age of 97, in Cherry Tree Hospital, Great Moor, Stockport marked the end of a long life most of which was associated with Chow Chows.

As a valued correspondent to OUR DOGS succeeding Will Hally as Chow Chow contributor he often boasted that he had known every one of the Marples dynasty which had edited the paper over a 93 year period.

Born in 1902 his first recollection of dogs was taking his father’s OES to |Sandy show in Bedfordshire in 1912 - even this had connections as is was bought from Sir Humphrey de Trafford, the first chairman of OUR DOGS!

He made his mark as a professional handler to larger kennels in the early 1920s. particularly with Mrs (later Lady) Faudel-Phillips and after winning well with two her dogs at Crufts in 1921 he went on to manage her kennel of Amwell Chows at Stisted Hall near Braintree, Essex.

After Lady Faudel-Phillips’ death in 1944 he built a judging career but continued to handle dogs for the Comtesse de Changy of Belgium and notably for Eric and Joan Egerton of the famous Ukwong Chows. His first association with them was in 1950 and it went on for 25 years to include the handling of the then all time record 79 CC winning Ch U King Solomon.
The record winning dog went to become top dog all breeds over two years in the 1970s.

He ultimately judged all groups and best in show in this country and also under FCI rules on the continent.

The funeral is to take place at Stockport Crematorium on Friday 10 January 2003 at Family flowers only. Donations to the Kirsty Howard Fund, Francis House, Didsbury, Manchester. If readers require any further information, please contact Mrs Jean Hempenstall tel: 0161-486 1652.